The government consultation ‘Health is Everyone’s Business’ put forward a number of proposals to minimise the risk of ill-health related job loss through better workplace support for disabled people and those with long-term health conditions. It also explored changes to Statutory Sick Pay, Occupational Health, information and advice, and employer guidance. The government has now published their response to the consultation.
So, what has the government said and are there any expected changes?
Right to request workplace modifications
The government will not be implementing the proposal for a new right for non-disabled employees to request workplace modifications to assist their return from sick leave. They will instead take steps to increase awareness and understanding of existing workplace rights and responsibilities, in particular the duty to make reasonable adjustments under the Equality Act 2010 for disabled employees.
That said, the government have stated that they will be taking forward the 2019 manifesto commitment to encourage flexible working and to consult on making it the default position unless employers have good reasons not to. This consultation will be published in due course.
No major reform of the statutory sick pay (SSP) system
The consultation sought views on a range of measures related to SSP intended to make the system more flexible, simple, and responsive. However, the government’s response indicates that the major reforms proposed will not be taken forward as now is not the right time to introduce changes to the rate of SSP or its eligibility criteria.
Improved access to occupational health services
The consultation sought views on whether reducing the cost barrier for SMEs could be effective in helping them to access occupational health services, as the evidence shows it is effective in supporting returns to work. The government has said that they will introduce a new strategy to help improve employer access to relevant occupational health services. As part of this, they will test a potential new occupational health subsidy to help tackle financial barriers to purchasing occupational health support.
Better guidance for employers
The government has asked the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to explore ways to strengthen guidance on how employers can best support disabled people and those with long-term health conditions to remain in work, and on managing related sickness absence.
Making better use of fit notes
Many of those who responded to the consultation took the opportunity to highlight the importance of the role of the fit note and how the government can ensure it is used more effectively in future. The government has said that they will be implementing a package of measures with this in mind, including creating a new interactive version of the fit note which will provide advice and support for suggested workplace adaptations or modifications based on clinical conditions to encourage work and health discussions between employees and employers and exploring the amendment of regulations to allow a wider range of eligible healthcare professionals to sign fit notes.
We will keep you updated on developments, in the meantime if you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.